You want to know why Rupert Murdoch runs the world and you don’t? Here’s a hint: In 1990, Spy Magazine (now archived at Google Books) sent Murdoch and a slew of other wealthy celebrities checks for $1.11 as a prank. Murdoch cashed his right away — because even when he was just a lowly billionaire, the guy understood money.
And the editors at Spy (1986-98) understood celebrity culture, which is why they became arguably the most influential magazine of the late 20th century, or, in Dave Eggers’ words “cruel, brilliant, beautifully written and perfectly designed, and feared by all.” Combining an elegant house style, barbed satire, and a healthy dose of class-rage, Spy inspired a radical tonal shift in American journalism just in time for the arrival of a perfectly suited new platform: The Internet.
You can read more about the magazine’s legacy in Will Hines’ excellent article Diving into the Archives of Spy, The Funniest Magazine Ever, at the comedy blog Splitsider. Before accusing Hines of hyperbole, take a look at some of his finds:
Joe Queenan sends up the The Cult of Bob Dylan
The editors list Clinton’s First 100 Lies
And that’s without even starting on the true classics from the 80’s. It’s all at Google Books. Enjoy.
Sheerly Avni is a San Francisco-based arts and culture writer. Her work has appeared in Salon, LA Weekly, Mother Jones, and many other publications. You can follow her on twitter at @sheerly.